TESTOSTERONE, the male sex hormone, has produced some interesting findings in several recent research studies.
Interesting, but not really surprising -- just ask any woman.
For example, male-male interactions in the animal world is where males of a species compete with each other for territory, food or breeding mates.
WINNERS PRODUCE MORE SEX HORMONE
Guess what? Human males are like that too. The testosterone changes in wrestlers seem to mirror the way the hormone acts in other species. Winning, being the top bull, actually produces more testosterone. Surprise! Women know this already. Winning is terribly important to men, who always want more of the manly-man sex hormone.
New research by University of Kansas professor Andrew Fry, health, sport and exercise sciences, shows that testosterone in winning collegiate wrestlers increased more than in the losing wrestlers, reports PhysOrg., the science and research news service. Funded by the U.S. Olympic Committee, Fry's research appears in the January issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
All wrestlers are familiar with a rush of "fight-or-flight" adrenaline, contributing to testosterone levels in their bodies; but, winning wrestlers had a greater testosterone response.
"Before the matches there was no difference," said Fry, "but when you'd sample the blood within five minutes after the match, you'd see a difference between winners and losers. We couldn't have picked it out ahead of time. Something is triggering this increase, and it seems to be fairly consistent."
ONLY FIVE MINUTES?
My question is: What difference does this make in the real world, if the extra shot of hormone lasts no more than five minutes?
Well, some women will tell you, in their pairings with men, that's all they ever experience -- just about five minutes. Depends on what you call "wrestling," I guess.
POSSIBLE AUTISM SIGNIFICANCE
But wait! There really are aspects learned from the research which might have significance in the future, particularly related to the development of autism.
True findings from such research would certainly be welcome following the fiasco created by the U.K.'s Dr. Andrew Wakefield. This is the guy who falsified a study linking vaccines to autism and was responsible for tens of thousands of children not receiving life-saving immunizations, particularly the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine, because parents believed the false evidence that vaccines could cause autism.
Why did he do it? It's alleged that Wakefield received more than $674,000 from lawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers. In May 2010, Wakefield's medical license was revoked in the United Kingdom and he can no longer practice medicine.
Sadly, although the study is now discredited, with more than two dozen studies having disproved the vaccine-induced-autism theory, many parents remain scared from years of fear mongering.
TESTOSTERONE INTERFERES WITH EMPATHY
UK and Dutch researchers gave women a small dose of the male hormone testosterone and found that it makes them less able to empathize with others, reports BBC News (UK).
The findings, published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences(PNAS) adds substance to the theory that the hormone is significant in the development of autism. Researchers suggest that exposure to the hormone in the womb may be key.
The autism disorder in varying degrees affects the ability of children and adults to communicate and interact socially. In the study, the volunteers who were given testosterone were less able to judge the mood of facial expressions they were shown.
THE 'EXTREME MALE BRAIN'
In this study, researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Utrecht tested the idea that the lack of empathy disorder is due to an "extreme male brain," which they think may be compromised by exposure to the male sex hormone during brain development in the womb. Don't forget, the rate of autism is much greater among boys than it is among girls.
To measure the presence of empathy, volunteers were given standard tests of "mind-reading" where subjects look at photos of faces and try to guess the mood of the person pictured. Women usually do better than men. But getting a dose of testosterone reduced this advantage.
Describing men with lots of testosterone and little empathy as having an "extreme male brain" is not surprising, although the mere thought makes any woman shudder. However, I was truly surprised about the length of men's fingers versus women's fingers and its meaning.
LET'S SEE YOUR FINGERS
The relative length of the index and fourth finger is different in men and women. For men, their index finger is usually shorter than their ring finger. On the other hand (ahem), for women these same two fingers are similarly long, or the index finger is longer. How come? Researchers think these differences are generated by differing amounts of testosterone exposure before birth.
Considering the previous study on testosterone discussed at the top of this post, I thought maybe this exposure before birth might depend on how many hours of wrestling the birth-mother watched during pregnancy.
Now get this -- the women who did worst at the "mind-reading" test after a dose of the male sex hormone were those women whose finger lengths were the most "man-like" in the first place.
"We are excited by this finding because it suggests testosterone levels prenatally prime later testosterone effects on the mind," said researcher Jack van Honk.
HORMONES HAVE FAR-REACHING MIND EFFECTS
Another researcher, professor Simon Baron-Cohen, said: "This contributes to our knowledge of how small hormonal differences can have far-reaching effects on the mind."
However, Dr. Richard Mills, Director of Research at the National Autistic Society (UK), described the study's results as "another piece of the jigsaw" not the complete answer. Although it is an important piece of research from a reputable team, Mills is concerned that "there are people who will seek to make capital out of this."
"We have heard of one group in the U.S. who is using the testosterone theory to justify 'treating' children with what is effectively chemical castration, which is plainly wrong."
Whoa! Well, maybe it's a group of women who are married to men with "extreme male brain" disorder.
TESTOSTERONE DRIVES FINANCIAL COLLAPSE ?
Too much testosterone can negatively affect the world, according to Christine Lagarde, one of the most powerful women in the world. The first woman ever to become finance minister of a large industrial country, France's Lagarde believes that men left to themselves usually make a mess of things. "The 2008 financial collapse was, at least in part, she says, driven by the aggressive, greedy, testosterone-fuelled mood of male-dominated, hi-tech trading rooms," reports The Independent (UK).
"In gender-dominated environments, men have a tendency to...show how hairy chested they are, compared with the man who's sitting next to them. I honestly think that there should never be too much testosterone in one room."
So what do you do? One suggestion -- before an important meeting, check out the people in attendance. For the women: "May I see your fingers, please?" For the men: "Please look at this picture and identify the emotion you see on the person's face."